Nurse Staffing Affects Patient Safety

From NIH News in Health

Having well-educated nurses with fewer patients to care for can help reduce hospital deaths, a new NIH study suggests. The findings can help hospitals make informed decisions about staff schedules and hiring.

Earlier research found that nurse education and other factors can affect patient health. In response, the Institute of Medicine recommended that most nurses in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree by 2020. Many hospitals now aim to hire more bachelor’s degree-trained nurses, and nearly 25 U.S. states have proposed or enacted legislation to improve hospital nurse staffing.

To learn more about the link between nurses and health, scientists examined data on more than 420,000 patients who underwent common surgeries in 9 European countries. The researchers also surveyed more than 26,500 nurses in the study hospitals to measure nurse staffing and education. The team analyzed how these nursing factors affected the likelihood of patients dying within 30 days of hospital admission.

The researchers estimated that each additional patient in a hospital nurse’s workload increased the chances of a patient dying within 30 days of admission by 7%. Nurse education also affected outcomes. For every 10% increase in nurses with bachelor’s degrees, the likelihood of patient death dropped by 7%.

In hospitals where 60% of nurses had bachelor’s degrees and cared for an average of 6 patients, the researchers calculated, the likelihood of patients dying after surgery was nearly one-third lower than in hospitals where only 30% of nurses had bachelor-level education and cared for an average of 8 patients.

“This study emphasizes the role that nurses play in ensuring successful patient outcomes and underscores the need for a well-educated nursing workforce,” says Dr. Patricia A. Grady, director of NIH’s National Institute of Nursing Research.


  1. We’ve always referred to a BSN as a Bull Sh** Nurse. It’s not the degree that makes the nurse. Some people are just born to be nurses, just like teachers. As a patient myself, I have received better care from some LPNs than BSN nurses. Unless you want to get into management, a BSN doesn’t make you a better bedside nurse.

  2. It is my opinion that administrators who do not follow safe-staffing wisdom, or laws where they are available, such as in Ohio, are forced-labor human trafficking their employees.

  3. The issues raised by the previous comments are not only relevant but critical in my personal opinion. As an ADN with 22+ years experience and currently pursuing a BSN, I feel that these articles contribute to not only a divisive, “hostile environment” within the profession as a whole, but border on being unprofessional. Presenting articles that do not make mention of the parameters or limitations of the study can be misleading in addition to insulting. It should not be ADN vs. BSN (or even new grads vs. experienced nurses) yet most of the professional articles on this topic present the information in this way – – I find this approach a disservice to our profession.

  4. Omgosh!!! Really?…..My profession for years ( over 20 ) has been trying to change the entry level to BSN, which I think they should, but pt safety will be reduced when hospitals and other nursing facilities stop being cheap and staff nurses with a lower RN/ pt ratio and or stop allowing RNs to work more than 32 hours a week. It’s all about saving money when it should be about pt safety and saving pts lives….

  5. I have been an RN for 43 years,
    with all my experience clinical .
    Nurses have been proactive for lower patient
    to nurse staffing ratios for years.
    Patient care improves when the nurse
    has less patients, that always seems like
    such a no brainer!Experienced as well as
    higher level educated nurses are equally
    important in providing excellent nursing

  6. I agree with you all, degree matters little….common sense, experience, staffing ratio that is appropriate to care needed for each patient, ancillary staff available to nurse, etc. I was a patient a few years back, had several new grads, BSN, who knew very little and ask me questions since I was a nurse and the patient! I also was in step down unit, telemetry, and they had 8 to 9 patients per nurse!!! That is not safe!!

  7. Ahh, do these nurses have nurse techs or are they doing total patient care? Agree with all above new nurse vs experienced contest
    In the perfect hospital setting with RN and nurse tech yes, certainly reduces deaths. Example RN doing total patient care. Assigned 6 patients
    Post op bed A radical prostectomy has grandmal seizure. Same time bed B geriatric patient has fallen and has broken his hip. Chest pain reported post PCI in next room. I really believe takes a village bedside to keep patients safe. Higher acuity of patients hospitalized needs more “hands” on deck

  8. Appreciate your comments and thoughts on this article. Please note that we were not paid to run this article, rather it is from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) originally published at You both make good points about the importance and value of experience and it would be interesting to see a study comparing book smarts to street smarts or in this case shift smarts. Thank you for reading The Pulse and taking the time to comment!

  9. I agree! This article makes no sense what so ever! Definitely DELETE this article. Must have been paid for by colleges ‘spinning’ to get more money. It IS staffing ratio period that makes a difference. The best education I received was ón the floor”. They need to bring back the old diploma schools and see what a difference it can make.

    • Your comment is amazing! At a recent Diploma Nursing School class reunion, we talked about the education we received. We all agreed that the experience on the floor plus the excellent classroom learning was better than that experienced by current BSN students. I am the only one of our class still practicing, but several of us have gone on to earn a BSN or MSN. To a person, we found the “advanced” degrees redundant. Did we go to a particularly well run nursing school that provided classes through a local university, or were diploma program nursing schools superior to the present BSN programs? I do not know the answer to this, but someone really has to do some research before those of us who attended these schools are gone.

  10. So what they’re saying is a new nurse with a bachelors degree coming to the floor to care for patients are more likely to save a life than a diploma nurse or an ADN nurse with 30+ years experience? Please delete this article…makes no sense


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Is Quitting Smoking On Your Calendar For 2016?

It’s no secret – nursing can be stressful. Whether you’re dealing with a patient about to code or two new admits at the same...

Finding the Silver Lining During a No Good, Very Bad Day

If anything helps a person hone in on the things that really matter, it’s nursing. That said, there are still those days when you definitely have...

How Do I Deal With Certification Exams?

First, congratulations! Taking a certification exam is a major step, one that sets you apart as a dedicated expert. It has taken a lot...